Dear President Zelenskyy,
I am very happy to be with you all today, even if virtually, on the eve of the National Day of Ukraine. Eight years have passed since Russia occupied and illegally annexed Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. And tomorrow we mark six months from Russia’s unprovoked invasion and war of aggression against Ukraine. These were not expressions of self-determination; they were textbook violations of basic rules and principles of international law.
The inviolability of borders has been the foundation of post-Helsinki Europe. The occupation of Crimea in 2014 marked the first step; the 24th of February was the next step: a revisionist plan to redraw the borders in Europe. We have earlier similar experience with the Turkish invasion and occupation of a large part of Cyprus in 1974. This wound is still open, after almost 50 years. We know the pain and the cost this brings to a country.
We have all seen the consequences of the Crimea occupation and annexation: human rights violations, in particular towards ethnic Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars, destruction of critical infrastructure, sharp deterioration of the freedom of navigation in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The Crimea, historically the home of many peoples and cultures, including my own, is now being absorbed by Russian expansionism. And since February, Russia has also used Crimea for its military operations during the full-scale aggression against the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
What lessons should be drawn from 2014? First and foremost, that revisionism and disrespect for basic principles of international law should be stopped from the start. If not, the aggressors are emboldened to pursue their agenda. At the end of the day, next to the heroic Ukrainian citizens whose lives were shattered by the war, our societies also face dire consequences because of the Russian aggression.
Greece has unconditionally stood with Ukraine from the outset, consistent with our long history of standing against authoritarianism; against those who abuse their power to impose their will to their neighbour. We will continue to stand by Ukraine.
As a matter of principle, Greece will not accept the change of borders Russia is trying to impose on Ukraine. Greece will be there, once this war is over, to support the reconstruction of Ukraine and help Kyiv on its European path.
Mr. President, you and your people are an inspiration to us all. Thank you for standing up for those values that are most dear to our peoples and our countries. And my warmest congratulations for tomorrow’s celebration of the National Day of Ukraine.